Monthly Archives: October 2011
This is going to be a quick rant. It’s also going to be very honest. I may curse, so I’ll ask in advance for you to forgive me for being very, very blunt. As you know by now, my dad has been in the hospital the past 16 days. He was admitted due to sepsis from a toe ulcer he ignored. Here’s the thing … it took them SIXTEEN days before they decided to amputate the toe the infection was originating from. Why? The answer is plain and simple: Because he had insurance and the hospital made far more money this way than they would have if they had amputated the toe two days after he was admitted. That may sound extreme, but it’s true.
Why did they wait? They insisted the toe, which looked (and smelled) horrible, wasn’t the sole origin of the infection. They did an Indium scan to find infection in other parts of the body. Guess what? The only place the Indium scan found infection was in the toe. In spite of that, they performed TEN other procedures to check for additional infection. TEN. I may not be the brightest bulb on the board, but even I know that if a toe has an ulcer that tested positive for MRSA and that’s causing so much sepsis (infection in the blood stream) that both hemispheres of the brain are highly inflamed, you cut the damn thing off. Instead, Dad was subjected to 3-4 procedures per day. Meanwhile, the infection continued to proliferate in his blood stream and could have lodged in his heart. We can only praise God that didn’t happen.
There’s no nice way of putting this … if my Dad didn’t have insurance, they would have amputated his toe the second day he was here and discharged him. Instead, they milked the system for sixteen days and subjected Dad to untold horrors. (See my previous post, When Patients Become Body Parts Instead of Humans.) I’m not saying people are better off without insurance. We all know that’s absurd. What I am saying is that people without insurance receive much more efficient medical care. Again, I know people die as a result of not having insurance, but there has to be a happy medium. The current for-profit medical system is so overblown that many tests are ordered simply because insurance will pay for it and not because they add value or provide information that’s needed to customize the care plan.
My Dad spent 16 days being delirious and having severe cognitive issues due to the swelling in his brain from the sepsis. His mental cognition returned to 100% a mere six hours after surgery. As I said before, if they had immediately amputated the toe, he’d probably be home by now doing outpatient rehab. Since they waited sixteen days, he will now have to spend time in an in-patient rehab facility. The physical therapist said we can expect one week of rehab for every day spent immobile in bed. Although I’m not sure I agree with that estimate, I do know Dad has lost significant muscle strength and will need extensive PT to get back on his feet. In my opinion, that is the hospital’s fault, not the infection’s fault.
This may be my first blog post ever that stays within the “300-400 word” recommended length. It is not a happy post, but it is the truth. In the last 15 days, I’ve been privileged to see how patient care works in hospitals because my dad has been an inpatient. The sad fact is that the focus isn’t on the patient as a whole, but is on the doctors’ convenience. It also seems to be somewhat directed toward hospital profitability. For information on how to protect loved ones during a hospital stay, read my post, How to Protect Yourself or Loved Ones During a Hospital Stay.
The overwhelming truth is that medicine has become so specialized that doctors have become incapable of viewing a patient holistically and are only able to consider the particular organ or body system they specialize in. This means that a patient’s mental and emotional state, lifestyle habits, age, and need to rest are completely ignored. Patient welfare is often sacrificed for physician convenience. I know it’s wrong, but it is now normal.
Throughout the course of his stay, my father has been seen by a vascular surgeon, three cardiologists, a cardiac electrophysiologist, an infectious disease doctor, a podiatrist, a general surgeon, a gastroenterologist, and a few doctors who never actually said what they did. This sounds like a stellar team who should have been providing stellar care, no? If my dad had a single issue, I’m sure one or two specialists would have been a good thing. When someone has multiple issues requiring multiple specialists, problems arise. The issues are typically due to a failure to communicate, which happens frequently. Another problem exists when each specialist begins ordering tests and procedures focusing on the organ(s) they specialize in without checking to see what other tests and procedures have been ordered. For my dad, this often resulted in two different tests being ordered by two different doctors which were each designed to basically test the same thing. It also resulted in four to five procedures being ordered for the same day, which meant Dad was out of his room for anywhere from six to 12 hours at a time. Imagine how difficult it is for a body to heal when it’s not allowed to rest. Asking a deathly ill man to be jostled and poked and prodded for 12 hours at a stretch with no rest borders on criminal and is just bad medicine.
In Dad’s case, there were several times the procedures didn’t even start until after 9 pm. This meant that he was often out of his room during the quietest hours of the night when rest would have been the best. (Hospitals are loud. Trust me.) During one span of two days, my father was subjected to NINE different procedures. Only two of those provided information that proved to be of value or that significantly changed his care plan. We learned very quickly that the best question to ask when a diagnostic test is ordered is not WHY it is being ordered, but what value the results provide and how the results of the tests will impact the care plan. If the results won’t significantly change the care plan, there’s probably not much point in doing the test. You’d be amazed how many tests are ordered simply to get information and not necessarily to change the diagnosis. (For a great expose on this phenomenon, read Overdiagnosis: Bad for You; Good for Business.)
Having excess tests ordered in succession also meant my father, who was in excruciating pain, had to go 12 hours or more with no pain meds on more than one occasion. It also meant he was often left in holding rooms for long periods of time without being checked on. For future reference, you can’t leave an immobile man in a holding room and not check on him for over two hours and then express shock that he had a bowel movement and wet himself while no one was around. Furthermore, you can’t withhold pain meds from a man who is in excruciating pain and then be surprised that he doesn’t willingly cooperate with procedures. All of these things happened to my father. None of them were acceptable.
So what’s the solution? Here are my recommendations:
- Don’t be afraid to pitch a bitch: I mean it. If you have issues with a loved one’s care, demand it be changed. Too many patients and family members subject themselves to hospital abuses simply because they don’t think they have any control. The doctors are your customers. You have absolute control over the services they provide. You wouldn’t believe how many times dad’s nurses THANKED US for refusing a procedure or demanding the timing of something be changed. I was amazed at how often the nurses said they agreed with us and had been sorry about and concerned by the doctor’s orders. Hearing the nurses express concern was all it took for us to start being very squeaky wheels and start demanding change. And … guess what? It worked! They listened to us and changed things. We refused several invasive procedures that were being done “just in case.” None of those procedures proved to be necessary. By refusing to allow them, we saved Dad from the risk of infection they would have created and from the pain and discomfort they would have caused.
- If the duration of the stay is going to be more than a week, demand weekly case meetings: A case meeting gets everyone – doctors, family, social worker, etc. – in one room so that ALL aspects of care can be discussed. We received our first one after I started expressing outrage over how my father was being treated and a charge nurse agreed with me. She organized the care meeting. The advantage of the care meeting is that it allowed us to inform the doctors of some issues they were unaware of, allowed the doctors to discuss options, and made sure that everyone was on the same page. We still had to pitch a bitch after this (see point one above), but it did help.
- Document everything: I say this for your own benefit, not because you should be planning to sue in the midst of your loved one’s illness. It is incredibly helpful to keep a record of issues and successes. Hospital stays are typically very emotional times. Documenting everything allows you to remember what questions and concerns you have so that you can share them with the appropriate people. Long after the hospital stay, the documentation will be very inspiring as you read about your loved one’s steady improvement. On a side note, documenting experiences is wonderfully cathartic. (Proof of that is that I’ve gone way over 400 words. Sorry!)
- Request additional monitoring if needed: My dad was not admitted to intensive care, but was incapable of pressing the nurse call button or doing anything for himself. His wife and I and other family members tried to be there as much as possible, but we were simply unable to be there 24/7. His lack of supervision when we weren’t there ultimately resulted in him falling out of bed when he needed assistance but was being “ignored” during a shift change. Nurses can typically only check on a patient once per hour, if that. Most hospitals have what are called “sitters.” Sitters have received marginal training and are hired to sit in a patient’s room to monitor his or her needs. The sitter can assist with urination, calling the nurse as needed, feeding, etc. We were unaware such an option existed. After Dad fell out of bed, the hospital assigned a sitter to him at their expense. If your loved one is incapable of requesting assistance and/or has impaired cognition, request a Sitter.
- Get support: Hospital stays are often a constant barrage of bad news. It often seems that every positive report is immediately followed by two negative ones. It can often be very difficult to stay positive in the midst of constantly learning that test results revealed new problems or confirmed fears. You will soon find that you are emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted. Some people are good at expressing grief and distress very openly and then moving on. Most people tend to deny their full feelings because they’re afraid to face them. This is especially true when a loved one is extremely ill in a manner that could result in death or permanent impairment. Everyone deals with stress differently, but EVERYONE needs support and encouragement when they have a loved one in the hospital. Don’t be a martyr. Ask friends to help, talk to a hospital chaplain, contact prayer lines, find a counselor, write blog posts … do whatever it takes. It is important to find someone who will let you yell and scream and get angry, because you will be. (Anger is one of the stages of grief. Most hospital stays due to illness create grief at some level.) I am a “stuffer.” When there’s an emergency and people need a rock to lean on, I automatically shut my emotions off, become everyone else’s encourager, and go into a highly analytical mode. The end result of this was that after a week, I was exhausted beyond belief and ached from head to toe. My husband encouraged me to take a day off. When I did, he greeted me that morning by saying that he was devoting his day to me because I had been devoting myself to my dad. (Yeah, I cried. I needed it.) After two weeks, I hit my wall and completely broke down after a very tiny issue developed. Don’t let yourself go as long as I did. Emotions are good. Let yourself express them during your loved one’s hospital stay. If you don’t, you’ll wind up having to work through them after the stay. That can get messy.
I do want to say that my dad’s nurses are incredible. They have so much information to share. Also, if you need to gripe, you may be amazed to hear that they agree with you and have been wishing you’d say something to the doctors. Tap into their encouragement and support. Most nurses love to offer it. It’s also fantastic to hear that they, as experts in the field, agree with and share your concerns. Nurses rock.
The good news is that it appears we’re nearing the end of Dad’s hospital stay. He has a major procedure tomorrow to remove the source of the infection, and it is hoped that he will continually improve after that. He still has a lot of healing to do, but things are looking far better than they were. Thanks to those who have supported me through this. Your support is precious.
Today I want to share the recipe for a cream that has amazing anti-aging effects and that is incredibly easy to make. When I created the formula for this cream, it soon became the hottest seller in my organic skincare business. A friend of mine was heartbroken when I closed the business, because she had come to depend on this cream to keep her skin looking young and radiant.
If you enjoy making your own skincare products, be sure to check out my post on how to make your own hand sanitizer: Hand Sanitizer Alternatives.
The base formula for Wonder Creme only uses two basic ingredients. I share suggestions of ingredients to add to bolster its effectiveness or to customize it for specific needs at the end of this post. The recipe is easily increased or decreased, so you can make a tiny amount or a huge amount based on need. It is best used within six weeks if not kept in the refrigerator, so plan accordingly when choosing how much to make. When making your own facial and body products, please use fresh ingredients and please thoroughly cleanse your work space and all containers and utensils used. Wiping everything with an alcohol wipe or with a bit of Tea Tree Essential Oil is a good way to ensure cleanliness. The recipe follows.
Wonder Creme Recipe
- Two Parts Liquid Oil (1 cup)
- One Part Aloe Vera GEL (1/2 cup) – note that this is the gel and not the liquid. The product in the link is my favorite because it uses seaweed as a thickener instead of chemicals. It is organic and has a few herbs added which are wonderful for skin health. Most aloe vera gels contain a preservative to inhibit bacterial growth. This product uses a very tiny amount of a more natural alternative.
When choosing which oil to use, use the following guidelines. I’ve included links to additional information on Amazon for each oil. (On a side note, Amazon has some of the best prices I’ve found for oils.):
- Jojoba Oil: One of my favorite oils. Jojoba oil is actually a wax that is liquid at room temperature. Jojoba is known to be anti-inflammatory and to be mildly antimicrobial. One amazing fact about Jojoba oil is that its chemical structure almost exactly matches that of the skin’s own sebum, making it a very healing oil that is readily absorbed and which penetrates many layers of the epidermis. In my experience, Jojoba oil is great for reducing wrinkles but is also a “safe” oil to use in moderation with acne due to its antibacterial properties. It is a great “go to” oil for any skin type, but it also known to be a great oil for use on the hair. (If you want to pamper yourself, use Jojoba as a hot oil hair treatment.) Jojoba oil is very easily absorbed, but is a bit heavier than other oils. I love to use it straight or as a bath oil or in creams during the winter to keep my skin moisturized.
- Grapeseed Oil: Grapeseed is a much lighter oil than Jojoba but is still very easily absorbed. It is known to be a very soothing oil and to have mild anti-inflammatory properties. It is high in Vitamin E, Vitamin C and other anti-oxidants. Grapeseed is known to be highly moisturizing, is known to help repair the cell structure of the skin, and is known to be great for acne because it is lightly astringent. It is commonly used in products for older or damaged skin. It is a great oil to use during the summer months because it is so light.
- Meadowfoam Seed Oil: Meadowfoam Seed Oil is an amazing oil. It penetrates more layers of the epidermis than almost any other oil. This makes it a wonderful choice for carrying healing herbal extracts or essential oils into the skin. Meadowfoam Seed Oil is known to be extremely high in antioxidants and to contain an extremely high amount of fatty acids. It is known to be wonderfully healing and regenerating.
- Shea Butter: Shea Butter is solid at room temperature, so be aware that it will need to be melted over VERY LOW heat before being blended into the cream. (Shea Butter will crystallize if heated to too high a temp, so please heat very, very gently in a double-boiler. It liquifies in contact with the skin, so it doesn’t take much heat to get it soft enough to blend.) Shea Butter is amazingly emollient and has been used in Africa for thousands of years to reduce wrinkles, heal cracked skin and as a barrier to protect the skin from damaging products. The unrefined variety has the most healing properties, but also has a slight smoky odor. The odor is easily covered by essential oils, but be aware that using Shea Butter will impart a very slight odor to the product if essential oils are not added.
Combine oil (melted if using a solid oil) and aloe vera gel in a glass container. Blend using a fork to whisk the ingredients together. In about five minutes, the consistency will change to a consistency resembling apple sauce or watery tapioca pudding. If adding other ingredients, add them at this stage, but only if the cream is starting to thicken. Continue whipping product. After about five more minutes, the product will suddenly transform into a gorgeous white, fluffy cream. Transfer to a clean container (glass preferred) and store for up to six weeks. (The preservative in the aloe vera gel will help inhibit bacterial growth.) Trust me that this cream will receive rave reviews if you give it in a decorative container as a holiday gift.
The following ingredients may be added as desired.
- Essential Oils: Essential Oils can be added to add fragrance to the produce or to add healing benefits. Lavender essential oil is a great option. Please always thoroughly research your chosen essential oil(s) before using. Some do have contraindications. Please do not use essential oils at too high a concentration. Essential oils are best used at a dilution of 3%. This equates to 9-10 drops per tablespoon. For the recipe shown above, the recommended amount would be 1 – 1.5 teaspoons of essential oils.
- Herbal Extracts: Herbal extracts such as Calendula (wonderfully healing), Chickweed (great for itchiness), or Comfrey (wonderful regenerative properties) may be added if desired. Please thoroughly research before using. For the recipe shown above, I recommend adding 60-90 drops.
That’s it! If you make this, please let me know your results. Have fun with it!!
My passion is helping people improve their health by identifying and correcting systemic imbalances. I have helped thousands of people eliminate their health challenges using a holistic approach. If you are ready to improve your health, please contact me to schedule a consultation. I will help you identify the cause of health challenges and will then work with you to create a plan to reverse them.
UPDATE, October 5, 2015: A new effort was launched last year with the aim of protecting children who have health issues that make Halloween candy (any candy) a serious risk. This effort is called the Teal Pumpkin Project. You can learn more about it here: Teal Pumpkin Project. That page also has a link where people can get teal pumpkin window clings in exchange for a donation to FARE (Food Allergy Resource and Education.)
Since no single food item would be safe for every child and/or every health condition, the Teal Pumpkin Project encourages everyone to hand out non-food items. Those who choose to distribute non-food goodies are asked to place a teal pumpkin on their front porch (or a picture of one on their front door) to indicate they are not distributing food items.
This approach is one I’ve endorsed and encouraged for many years. The article that follows provides a list of non-food alternatives that are inexpensive and safe.
Please note that the TEAL PUMPKIN PROJECT and the Teal Pumpkin Image are trademarks of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).
I’ve shared some of this information before. It was met with snorts of laughter and threats to toilet paper my house. I’m ok with that.
It’s that time of year when fall is in the air and kids aged 2-90 across the US are excitedly planning their costumes. Most families I know put far more thought into costumes than they put into selectively choosing treats to distribute to trick-or-treaters. This concerns me. Following are a few quick reasons why it is so important to carefully plan what we put in our Halloween treat bowls:
- Every teaspoon of sugar decreases immunity for 2-4 hours. Think the weather causes kids to get sick around the holidays? Think again! I have pediatrician friends who tell me they can count on having packed offices starting the first weeks of November … immediately following Halloween. There is a connection between sugar consumption and illness.
- Food allergies are on the rise: Some day when you have absolutely nothing better to do, wander down the candy aisle and read labels. You’ll be amazed how many candies contain more than one of the top seven allergens: dairy, wheat, corn, soy, eggs, peanuts & tree nuts. Almost all chocolate contains dairy, and wheat flour is often used as a thickener. (Twizzlers candy contains wheat. You must read labels.) I realize it is not your responsibility to protect kids who have food allergies, but why not choose a treat that presents fewer risks? For the record, most parents of kids with food allergies don’t let their kids trick-or-treat or only take their kids to homes of friends and family who have approved treats. I’m also encouraged that many allergy-support groups host allergy-free Halloween parties for kids affected by food allergies.
- Almost all candy contains Genetically Modified ingredients: 90% of corn and sugar beets grown in the US are genetically modified. Why is this a problem? Because inserting gene particles from insects or other plant species into a plant’s existing gene structure is extremely dangerous. Additionally, when our bodies are subjected to foods having genetic structures our bodies were not designed to recognize, our bodies react by launching an allergic attack. Food allergies and digestive disorders have skyrocketed since genetically modified foods were introduced. Please visit the Institute for Responsible Technology website for in-depth education on the dangers of GMO’s and the scientific studies that prove those dangers.
So what can you give that kids will love but that won’t have the potential to cause negative health effects? My favorite alternatives follow. For safety, it may be wise to tell kids if an item is not edible:
- Skip Halloween and hold a fundraiser for starving children instead: People in the US spend an average of $80 per person on Halloween festivities. Imagine the powerful change that could occur if we celebrated by donating that money to a worthy charity instead.
- Nickels or Dimes: Depending on what you buy and where you shop, distributing nickels or dimes can be cheaper than buying candy.
- Temporary tattoos
- Coupons for kid-friendly activities
- Tiny toys: Pick up toys sold for insertion in birthday treat bags, or check out the Oriental Trading Company for oodles of great options at a low cost. (Put together a large order with several friends to decrease shipping costs. That way you can divvy up the toys so that you have a wider variety, too.)
- Colored pencils, markers, crayons, etc.: If time allows, let the kids pick their own. Little kids actually love this and get excited about it! Older kids may not visibly show they like it, but most do.
- Patterned shoe laces: Some stores sell these in bulk at a great price.
- Tiny containers of glitter. (Moms hate this one.)
- Character erasers: Please be sure to tell kids these are NOT edible for safety’s sake.
- Glow sticks or glow jewelry (added bonus is that these increase visibility)
Wander the aisles of dollar stores and craft stores for additional ideas.
Ok … GO! What other candy-free ideas for goodies can you share? Please share in the comments!
Photo courtesy of John Puett
I’ve spent a lot of time in a hospital the last week while my dad has been receiving treatment. While there, I’ve been blessed to see numerous dedicated professionals caring for my father. I’ve also been reminded that it is important for every patient to either be or have an advocate standing by their side to help protect them and to help ensure they receive the best care possible.
One of the easiest things to do to ensure the best care possible while in the hospital is to always carry a list of your current prescription medications (including dosage, frequency and who the prescribing physician is), a list of medication allergies AND a list of food allergies. Having that list with you or easily accessible on a smart phone or via Internet makes it very easy to share the information. Hospital stays tend to be fairly emotional, so keeping important information handy makes it easy to share with medical staff without having to rely on memory.
Iatrogenesis is defined as: inadvertent and preventable induction of disease or complications by the medical treatment or procedures of a physician or surgeon. In simple words, iatrogenesis refers to death or injury caused by physician error or hospital error. We shudder to think such a thing exists, but it exists in much higher numbers than you might think. In 1999, The Institute of Medicine cited extremely high rates of iatrogenesis in hospitalized patients as a result of medical error and negligence that largely resulted from system failures. Reviews of multiple studies done on hospital safety found that up to 36% of hospitalized patients suffer complications or additional illness from iatrogenesis and that 50% of those events could be prevented. It is also estimated that 6.5% of iatrogenic complications result in permanent disability or death. (For an in-depth look at iatrogenesis, please read my friend Andrew Robbin’s book, Licensed to Kill: The Growing Epidemics of Iatrogenic Disease And Bureaucratic Madness.)
Although most people receive excellent care while in the hospital, these numbers are significant enough that we should all use some common-sense precautions while in the hospital or caring for someone who is. My recommendations follow.
- Don’t Hesitate to Ask Questions: I think many people desperately want to trust their doctors, so they fail to ask the questions they should be asking. I personally experienced this while my daughter spent two weeks in neonatal intensive care. She suffered an extreme level of malpractice resulting in severe iatrogenic complications simply because I so desperately wanted to trust that her specialists knew what they were doing that I didn’t ask questions that should have been asked. In my case, I didn’t do what was needed until a specialist from another hospital who was called in as a consultant pulled my husband aside and told him … and I quote … “You need to get your daughter out of here.” I understand that sometimes people aren’t willing to ask questions simply because they want to trust that their family member is getting the very best care possible. I’ve been there. It is still acceptable and necessary to ask questions even when your loved one is receiving the very best care available. If you don’t understand what procedures are being done, or are curious about why they are being done, please ask. Your medical team has a responsibility to ensure you understand everything being done to help your loved one. If you have questions or if anything is even mildly unclear, ask them to clarify. Please don’t feel rushed. Take your time and ask as many questions as you need to. As questions come to mind after the doctors leave, write them down and ask them the next time a doctor is present.
Also take advantage of the knowledge your nursing staff has. Nurses have an amazing wealth of knowledge and are happy to share information and answer the questions they are legally allowed to. I have friends who are nurses who have said they often wish patients would ask more questions. Please also don’t hesitate to openly share if you aren’t sure a procedure should be performed. If you question the necessity or timing of a procedure, do your research and openly share your concerns. Remember that you are a customer, not just a patient, and that you can choose to accept or deny any service or provider offered. Most hospital services are obviously necessary and should be accepted, but there are times that asking the staff to dig deeper before performing a procedure is perfectly fine. Be aware that you have the right to refuse a procedure or to request a different doctor if you are uncomfortable with anything related to the procedure. This leads us to my next point …
- Know Your Rights: Be aware that you are not a “prisoner” of the hospital and that you are guaranteed certain rights. Top among those rights is that you are legally entitled to see your file/chart or the chart of your family member without having a doctor present. Spouses are allowed to view spouse’s files, and other family members can view charts with the patient’s approval. Many hospitals twist HIPAA laws and try to make it impossible for you to view your own file. A common tactic is to say that your file can only be viewed in the presence of a physician. This is, quite simply, illegal. HIPAA laws are in place to guarantee patient rights, not to make it impossible to review your records. If you ask to view your file or your spouse’s and are refused access, let the staff know you are aware of your rights and politely but firmly demand access. If you are still refused access, call the hospital’s HIPAA office and speak with someone to request access. If you are still not allowed to view your chart, call an attorney. Your medical information is, quite simply, legally yours and you are legally entitled to have full access to it. Period. If you are denied access, persist until you are granted access. Another trick they use is to say they cannot provide copies of test results until after the patient is discharged, at which point they charge up to $5/page for the copies. Don’t let this happen. Demand they grant your legal rights. Some people choose to get around the hospital red tape by having all records sent to their primary care physician and then getting copies from that doctor. This method takes much longer, but can be easier if you are not comfortable being assertive.
- Monitor, Monitor, Monitor: I want to very clearly state I commend the doctors and nurses who work in hospitals. They face incredible stress and pressure on a daily basis and manage to rise above it to provide top-notch service and care. As much as I admire them, it can’t be denied that they are human. Humans sometimes make mistakes. I am thankful that multiple checks and balances are in place to ensure mistakes don’t happen in medical settings, but they still do. I know medication errors happen because I’ve had it happen … twice … in two different hospitals. I was brought the wrong medication on two different occasions. Had I not asked what I was being given, I would have taken the wrong medication. In one case, the error could have been deadly. The problem with medication errors is that they create the potential for a cascade effect. If you are given someone else’s medication, it creates the chance the other person will also be given the wrong medication, so on and so forth. ALWAYS ask what medication is being administered before taking it. Always. This includes asking what bags are being hung on IV poles and what medication is being injected into IV tubes.
This is especially important if you have medication allergies. Always, always ask before taking anything or allowing it to be added to your IV. If you have medication allergies, hang a sign on your IV pole clearly indicating your allergies. Please also monitor your meal tray, especially if you have food allergies. Also be careful if you are taking a medication that should not be taken with some foods. For instance, people taking Coumadin are typically advised not to eat broccoli, yet broccoli is often served in hospital meals without regard for medications being taken. I’ve seen it happen. Be careful. Also monitor the timing of medications. If a medication is supposed to be administered every four hours, you may need to request it. Give the nurses a 10-15 minute window of good faith, then politely request the medication if it has still not been administered.
- Bring Your Own Food: I’m not kidding. Hospital food is basically the same as what is served in fast food restaurants. It is highly processed, not organic and is laden with chemicals. It’s also just plain NOT healthy. Since it doesn’t taste good, bringing your own food shouldn’t be an issue. It amazes me that mainstream doctors admit whole foods are healthier, yet the food given to patients who are at their most vulnerable and who need the purest form of nutrition for healing is the farthest thing from whole food. Salads are made with iceburg lettuce, which is nutritionally void, all bread and breading is made with white flour instead of whole grain flours, and white sugar is added to almost everything. They also serve Splenda as a sweetener, which I think is criminal. Read my post on why you should never use Splenda here: http://bit.ly/pWYIzF.
One hospital tray I was recently “privileged” to view contained EIGHTY grams of carbs in a single meal. In my opinion, the highest number of carbs advised in any single meal is 30-45. (That’s 2-3 servings of carbs. MORE than enough.) Eighty grams of carbs in a single meal is enough to guarantee high blood sugar and obesity in a short time. Hospital food seems to be designed to guarantee that people eating it become repeat customers. Bring your own food and ask family members to bring whole, organic foods as gifts. You’ll heal more quickly as a result.
What steps do you take to protect yourself and your loved ones? I’d love to hear them!
On an interesting side note, I failed to take my home made hand sanitizer with me, so I was forced to use the hospital’s. Check out my post on Why You Should Never Use Hand Sanitizer: http://bit.ly/nNGDM7 for more info on why this concerned me.
A related post is one that could potentially help keep you out of the hospital: Top Three Blood Tests Almost Everyone Should Request: http://bit.ly/plpX7T
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Patrick A. Palmieri, et al. (2008). “The anatomy and physiology of error in averse healthcare events”. Advances in Health Care Management 7: 33–68. doi:10.1016/S1474-8231(08)07003-1
Brennan TA, Leape LL, Laird NM, et al. (1991). “Incidence of adverse events and negligence in hospitalized patients. Results of the Harvard Medical Practice Study I”. N. Engl. J. Med. 324 (6): 370–6. doi:10.1056/NEJM199102073240604. PMID 1987460
Institute of Medicine. To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000.
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Szasz, Thomas S. Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America. Westport, CT: Praeger Trade, 2001.
Tassano, Fabian. The Power of Life or Death: A Critique of Medical Tyranny. Oxford: Oxford Forum, 1999.
One of my favorite activities in my practice is helping explain the deeper meanings of blood test results. I love being able to explain what may have caused an abnormal reading and to show connections between abnormal readings in different body systems. While doing this, I’m often surprised that blood tests I consider “standard” are frequently not ordered. What I find more surprising is how shocked people are when I tell them they should request specific blood work. We seem to forget that our doctor is our customer and that he or she needs to listen to our requests. If you wish to have specific blood tests done, please ask your doctor to order it. There may be times s/he may resist due to concerns insurance won’t pay for it, but most docs will listen to your desires and order it. If you have a doc that refuses to listen to your concerns, perhaps you should consider finding a different practitioner.
Please note this post only mentions the top three blood tests I feel are most often overlooked. There are a multitude of blood, urine and stool tests that may be beneficial to helping predict or identify a health issue. Please work with your practitioner as a team to determine which tests will be best for you.
Although I identify these tests as being good for people carrying a bit of extra weight, it can be helpful to request these tests as part of a yearly physical in order to establish a baseline and spot early changes. Anyone who has health issues, is overweight or has had trouble losing weight, or has unexplained fatigue, headaches, etc. should always request the following blood tests:
- Insulin: Most doctors order a blood glucose level, and some may order a Hemoglobin A1C which provides an “average” of blood sugars over a period of about three months. However, I rarely see insulin levels ordered by anyone other than a holistic MD. Fasting insulin level shows how much insulin your body is producing. High insulin levels are an indicator the body has developed insulin resistance, which may lead to Type 2 diabetes. This test is important to request because people with pre-diabetic conditions or with Metabolic Syndrome may have fasting blood glucose levels that are normal, but often have high insulin levels. Most labs identify levels of around 5-17 as “normal.” I like to see levels below 8-10. If someone has levels above 8, I typically start a revised eating plan with appropriate supplements if necessary.
- Full Thyroid Panel: When thyroid disorders are suspected, many doctors order a Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) test, but do not order tests to measure the specific levels of thyroid hormones in the blood. The TSH test measures the amount of TSH hormone being secreted by the pituitary gland. The thought is that you can measure the health of the thyroid gland by measuring whether or not the body is trying to increase or decrease its function. In my perspective, this is somewhat similar to checking the oil level in a car that’s overheating instead of actually measuring the fluid level in the radiator. I believe there is value in the TSH test, but only when combined with tests that measure the actual amount of thyroid hormones in the blood stream. Two of the most commonly run tests to measure thyroid hormone levels are Free T3 and Free T4. (Those are two of the most important hormones secreted by the thyroid gland.) If thyroid issues are suspected, PLEASE insist your doctor order the Free T3 and Free T4. I know from personal experience that many docs are unwilling to order these tests. The true health of your thyroid gland cannot be adequately assessed without them. It can also be helpful to request an Antithyroglobulin test to determine if thyroid issues are caused by an autoimmune condition. I share a bit more detailed information in a prior post, Thyroid Hormones & Bone Marrow Biopsies: http://bit.ly/qMtbGs. Please visit Stop the Thyroid Madness for in-depth information about thyroid issues and recommended blood work.
- High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP): I am pleased that many more doctors are ordering a hs-CRP test for their patients. C-Reactive Protein is a protein produced by the liver in response to inflammation. A regular CRP test may be done after surgery or during various treatments to evaluate the level of inflammation in the body. The High-Sensitivity CRP is currently used as a possible predictor of potential heart disease. The hs-CRP can detect lower levels of inflammation. It is thought these levels often result from inflammation in the tiny blood vessels and other tissues in the heart. Although elevated hs-CRP levels do not guarantee heart disease, studies have found a definite connection between elevated hs-CRP levels and heart disease. I typically begin addressing cardiovascular issues when I see an elevated hs-CRP level. The CDC identifies levels below 1.0 as indicating low risk level; 1.0-3.0 as indicating a normal risk level; and levels above 3.0 as being high risk. These levels are obviously more of a concern when extremely high levels of triglycerides and/or cholesterol are present.
I can often tell quite a bit about a person’s health from abnormal results in these tests, especially when combined with other blood work. These tests obviously all need to be used in conjunction with other blood tests and other assessment techniques.
My other encouragement related to blood work in general is to not become concerned by abnormal blood work before discussing it with your practitioner. There are many reasons for abnormal levels in some of the more general tests, so please do not jump to conclusions and assume the worst before discussing the results with someone who knows how to interpret them.
We returned from a trip to Florida last night. We had an amazing time together and with our son! Having a flat tire on the way to the airport, returning home to find it flat again, and spending a total of almost two hours sitting on various tarmacs due to air traffic control software problems (!!!!!) was mild compared to my experiences going through TSA with all the accoutrements I carried. Let me state that the following is a bit tongue-in-cheek and somewhat sarcastic. I know TSA agents are merely doing their job and I do respect that. Following are a few tips for traveling with a freak of nature:
- Leave early to get a good TSA pat down: When I say “early,” I mean REALLY early. This is because most of us who choose to protect our health will opt-out of the x-ray scans used by TSA. (A list of links follows as to why we opt out. I encourage you to do your research.) Opting out of the scans means you get treated to a TSA pat down. I’ve had several of these. They’re bothersome, but not as invasive as you may have heard. On a side note, I travel with vials of insulin and B12 that I also won’t allow to be x-rayed. Requesting a visual check of these items also slows down the security process. The agents ignore the syringes but often seem convinced that B12 serum is a danger to national security or that I’m “hiding” a potion for world domination in those tiny syringes. This leads us to point 2:
- Label & package clearly: When carrying unusual items (such as kefir grains or liquids pre-loaded into syringes), it is important to package them so that TSA agents can easily view them and can easily examine them. In the case of my two B12 injections, I packaged them in a travel container typically used to store a toothbrush put inside the bag containing the prescription label. This kept them labeled, sterile, and guaranteed the plunger couldn’t accidentally be pushed during travel. It also made it very easy for me to open the container to display the syringes to the agents.
- Leave early so that TSA can unpack your suitcase: Plan ahead for unusual items to be examined. I travel with water kefir grains and natural sugar in separate zippy bags tucked into a small jar so that I can continue my habit of brewing and drinking probiotic-rich water kefir while I travel. TSA agents in Tampa ignored these items; TSA agents in Indianapolis took them out of their protective baggies and had a million probing questions for me. I’m not familiar with C4 explosives … do they look like kefir grains? (See pic. Do they????) Were they afraid I’d gain control of the plane by improving the pilots’ digestion? Such a mystery! One TSA agent was a bit skeptical when I said the powdered substance in the baggie was sugar used to “feed” the kefir grains, but thankfully chose not to call for drug sniffing dogs. Oddly enough, on our return trip, the water kefir grains went unnoticed, but four small bags of artisinal rice garnered many questions. I’m not sure how rice could compromise national security, but apparently it’s a questionable item. Who knew? The bottom line is that if you are taking anything unusual with you while traveling, plan ahead for delays caused by TSA agents doing their job by asking questions about items and ingredients they don’t recognize.
- Plan for TSA agents to freak out if you take off your insulin pump: This is the third time I’ve had a TSA agent INSIST I put my insulin pump back on after I took it off to have it inspected. Most insulin pumps do not set off metal detectors; mine does. I therefore turn if off, take it off and request a visual inspection because I’ve jumped through TSA hoops about my insulin pump one too many times. Here’s what I was avoiding: When the pump sets off the metal detector, they insist on scanning me head to toe to figure out what metal I’m carrying. When they isolate the insulin pump as the source of the metal, they then insist that I show them my insertion set, the location where the catheter needle is injected into my body. This is typically in my lower abdomen. (I don’t know about you, but I try to avoid unzipping my pants and baring my abdomen to strangers. It’s just a thing I have.) They then typically force me to unhook the insulin pump ANYWAY so they can test the pump’s software and prove to themselves it’s an insulin pump and not a detonator. I therefore typically turn my pump off, remove it from the insertion set, request a visual check, and move on because that is faster. Or, it’s faster until a TSA agent decides that if I remove my pump myself it’s dangerous, but if he orders me to remove my pump it’s perfectly safe. Go figure.
- Never lose your sense of humor: I anticipated most of the challenges we had with TSA and was ready for them and the delays they created. Running late because of a flat tire destroyed our schedule, so I was feeling a bit rushed. However, I had decided in advance to smile my way through it and crack as many jokes as I could. (I didn’t attempt humor with the TSA agents and don’t advise it. Cracking a joke about the C4 explosives hidden in your suitcase won’t end well. Trust me.) I was successful at maintaining a positive attitude, laughing at the developments, and avoiding any expenditure of negative energy.
There you have it. If traveling with a freak of nature, plan ahead, keep smiling, and know that you’re better of because of it! I think here is the appropriate place to mention that God rewarded our delays and travel challenges by blessing us with a red Mustang as our Priceline “economy” rental at $19/day. It was all very, very worth it. Have a great day!
Resources for information on radiation from TSA scanners:
In my last post, I discussed the dangers of the chemical Triclosan, a chemical commonly used in antibacterial products. You can view that post at Why You Should Never Use Hand Sanitizer.
Following is a list of my recommended alternatives to chemical hand sanitizer:
- Plain Ol’ Soap: Repeat after me: ALL SOAP IS ANTIBACTERIAL. Soap does not require the addition of chemicals to be antibacterial. Multiple studies have been done to prove this. Researchers at The University of Michigan reviewed the results from 27 different studies that measured the antibacterial effectiveness of antibacterial soaps compared to regular soaps. The researchers concluded that antibacterial soaps do not kill any more bacteria than regular soap. (They also concluded the studies proved antibacterial soaps may contribute to antibiotic resistant bacteria.)
The number of bacteria killed by soap is dependent on how long the soap is in contact with the skin. More bacteria are killed the longer the soap is in contact with the skin. A good rule is to wash your hands long enough to sing “The Birthday Song” twice. (I recommend singing it in your head instead of out loud, but you do what’s best for you.)
- Essential Oils: Essential oils are aromatic plant oils that are distilled or extracted from plant material. These are the oils that are used in Aromatherapy. The medicinal content of essential oils is so potent I confess I don’t care for the term “Aromatherapy” because I don’t feel it adequately portrays the medicinal strength of essential oils. Many essential oils are known to be strongly antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. If you are unfamiliar with essential oils, I recommend purchasing pre-made products. Although essential oils are 100% natural, they do need to be treated with respect. The essential oils I mention in this post are generally safe for use when safely diluted. There are many other antibacterial essential oils, but I have not listed those which can burn the skin or which are highly irritating.PLEASE note that most essential oils must be diluted before being applied to the skin and that very few essential oils are suitable for internal use.The following essential oils are known to be among the strongest in terms of antibacterial and antiviral strength. (Most of these are also antifungal): Oregano, Tea Tree, Rosemary, Lavender, Thyme, Lemon and Eucalyptus. These essential oils can be blended as you prefer to create more appealing scents, but should always be diluted to a minimum of 3% before being applied to the skin. This equates to 10 drops of combined essential oils per ounce (2 tablespoons) of carrier product.An interesting blend of highly-antibacterial and antiviral essential oils is called the “Four Thieves Blend.” The blend typically includes Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon, Rosemary and Eucalyptus essential oils. Please note that Cinnamon essential oil is very strong and may burn the skin on contact. It must be handled carefully.The name of the blend stems from thieves in the 15th century who used a blend of the oils to protect themselves from the plague while they robbed the dead and dying. After they were caught, the thieves exchanged the blend’s recipe in exchange for a lesser punishment.If you want to make your own thieves blend, blend the indicated oils in equal amounts. Many pre-made blends are available. The beauty of the four thieves blend is that it can be blended into aloe vera gel to make a hand sanitizer, can be spritzed into the hand and inhaled to help kill inhaled microbes, or can be blended with witch hazel to make an antibacterial spray. (See recipes that follow.)ESSENTIAL OIL ANTIBACTERIAL RECIPES
These recipes are quick and easy to make. You can either purchase the essential oils from any health food store or click the links shown above to purchase from Amazon. The size of each recipe can be increased or decreased (halved, doubled, tripled, etc.) if the amount of each ingredient is proportionally modified.
World’s Simplest Hand Sanitizing Gel
4 oz aloe vera gel (Find one without chemical additives. Click the link to view my favorite.)
36 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil*
Thoroughly blend gel with essential oil. Can safely be packaged in a purse-sized containers for use.
*You can also blend 36 drops of any of the antibacterial oils shown above.
Essential Oil Antibacterial Spray
You can use rubbing alcohol as the carrier, but be aware rubbing alcohol contains unwanted chemicals and will affect the odor of the product. If you want to use the most antibacterial alcohol, pick up a bottle of Everclear. (Please only use for toiletries. I don’t advise drinking it.)
That’s it! Do you make your own antibacterial products using essential oils? What are your favorite blends? Please share!
Consumer Antibacterial Soaps: Effective or Just Risky, Clinical Infectious Diseases, August, 2007.
Update, December 10, 2013
I was contacted today by a representative of GOJO Industries, the manufacturer of Purell Hand Sanitizer. The representative contacted me to inform me this article contained “errors” and that the FDA does not allow the chemical Triclosan to be used in “leave on” products. Although I appreciate the representative’s desire to defend their product, the truth is that Triclosan used to be very commonly used in hand sanitizers made by other companies. Let me also make it perfectly clear this article never advised against using hand sanitizing products but specifically warned against using products containing Triclosan.
Approximately five years ago, I spent a significant amount of time researching OTC hand sanitizers in search of ones that did not contain Triclosan. At that time, the majority of the products I researched did indeed contain Triclosan. Purell’s did not. In my research, there were very few hand sanitizers that solely contained alcohol. A Washington Post article from 2010 also identified that some — not all — hand sanitizers did indeed contain Triclosan. In Purell’s defense, they are listed on the Food and Water Watch’s list of companies which are committed to NOT using Triclosan and their products do not contain Triclosan.
Unfortunately, the fact the FDA claims to not allow Triclosan to be used in in leave-on products raises huge questions about why and how some companies continue to use Triclosan in products which are left on the skin. These products include Revlon’s ColorStay LipSHINE Lip Color Plus; Bath and Body Works Instant Antibacterial Hand Gel; numerous deodorants made by companies such as Right Guard and Old Spice; and numerous acne products. (In recent years, the Vaseline Company discontinued using Triclosan in lotions.) If Triclosan cannot be used in products which are left on the skin, why is it allowed to be used in deodorants and lipsticks which are obviously left on the skin? The FDA is currently re-examining Triclosan regulations, but they do not have a strong history of making necessary changes.
The bottom line is that you must read labels. Triclosan is still very commonly included in oral products such as mouthwashes and toothpastes; hand and body washes; etc. The Crest Company has removed Triclosan from some of their products, but not all. The Colgate Company has not yet removed Triclosan from several of its toothpastes. It is especially important to note that Triclosan is included in many products which are labeled “natural,” such as several Avon body sprays. You can view a list of products that contain Triclosan at:
It is also important to note that the fact a hand sanitizer does not contain Triclosan does not mean it is a pure product. Many OTC hand sanitizers contain a wide variety of other ingredients which are not considered safe.
Original Article, Published 10/3/2011
Let me start this post by saying I strongly encourage everyone to maintain good hygiene during flu season by using frequent hand washing. Although the use of hand sanitizer seems to be a great way to avoid bacteria when you can’t wash your hands, there are dangers associated with OTC hand sanitizers containing Triclosan. In today’s post I’ll share the dangers of Triclosan. If you’d like to see alternatives you can easily make yourself, please read Hand Sanitizer Alternatives. If you are interested in learning more about the unpublished dangers in other common products, please read my post, Why You Should NEVER Use Splenda (Sucralose)
- Triclosan Has an Almost Indefinite Afterlife in Human Tissue: Swedish studies found Triclosan in 60% of women’s breast milk, even years after mothers had stopped using antibacterial products due to toxicity concerns. The body stores Triclosan in fat cells. (Toxicity is a common cause of inability to lose weight. The body refuses to lose its protective layer of fat in order to avoid flooding the body with toxins. I find that an effective detox often results in a loss of 5-10 pounds over the span of a year even if no other efforts are made.) Since the body cannot metabolize and eliminate Triclosan, some studies suggest daily use could easily lead to toxic levels of the chemical in the body.
- Triclosan is a Known Endocrine Disruptor: Multiple scientific studies have proven that Triclosan negatively affects thyroid function in frogs, specifically the metabolism of the thyroid hormones. This effect has been shown to stop tadpoles from developing sex organs or from ever becoming a frog. There is some evidence that Triclosan has the same effect in humans. No one can deny that there is an absolute epidemic of thyroid disorders in the US. Did Triclosan cause them? Probably not. Is it a contributor, the evidence says that’s very possible. Why take the risk?
- Triclosan Is Associated With Antibiotic Resistance: Other studies have proven that continual use of Triclosan (an antibacterial product) creates antibiotic resistance bacteria. Other studies proved that people who use products containing Triclosan on a daily basis have a higher incidence of resistance to antibiotics than people who do not.
- Triclosan Forms Carcinogens When Exposed to Chlorine in Tap Water: When Triclosan is exposed to tap water, such as when you wash your hands with an antibacterial soap, it releases chloroform gas, a known carcinogen. Studies also showed the effect is stronger when hot water is used, such as during a shower. Imagine how much of this gas you inhale during a hot shower. Chloroform gas is also emitted when water containing Triclosan is exposed to sunlight. This effect is a known killer of algaes and other aquatic plant life that are an essential part of the food chain. Waste water processing cannot remove all Triclosan from tap water, so you are drinking it whether you want to or not if you drink tap water. (Please don’t.) Triclosan is also known to break down into dioxins, a chemical known to be toxic.On a side note, did you know the EPA allows sewage from water treatment plants to be used as fertilizer? This means that the dioxins and other chemicals in sewage are being absorbed by the non-organic fruits and veggies you are eating. Aside from being disgusting, this practice could be potentially dangerous.
- Triclosen is strongly Linked to Human Disorders: Although further research is needed to confirm the full effects of Triclosan on the endocrine system, existing research proved Triclosan is dangerous to humans and linked its use to increased rates of asthma, allergies and eczema.
- Triclosan was recently linked to muscular weakness and disorders: Recent studies found that Triclosan impairs muscular contractions in cardiac and skeletal muscles. These effects are already seen in the environment in the form of slower swimming fish and other abnormalities.
Needless to say, I thoroughly read all products before purchasing any OTC product, especially since Triclosan hides in products where you wouldn’t expect to find it. I make most of my own bath products and household cleansers. I also make my own all-natural hand sanitizer. Please read Hand Sanitizer Alternatives with Recipes for information on how to avoid Triclosan and easily make your own hand sanitizer and sanitizing sprays.